Missouri River Flood Update

Levees on Missouri River Hold as Tributaries Crest, But Some Farms Still See Flooding

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Quentin Connealy, standing about a mile and a half from where the Missouri River normally flows, said his family has about 600 acres flooded near Tekamah, Nebraska. Still, a lot of Missouri River bottom land remains protected by levees that are holding back the surge from flooded tributaries in Iowa. (DTN photo by Chris Clayton)

TEKAMAH, Neb. (DTN) -- Communities in western Iowa were in the midst of cleanup on Wednesday from devastating flash floods that hit during the weekend because of heavy rains while some farmers on the Missouri River bottoms could only watch the waters continue to take over their fields.

For the most part, levees along key tributaries to the Lower Missouri River were holding true while crops and farms remained protected from the high waters. Some farmers with land along the Missouri River who do not have levee protection were seeing their fields taken over by the rising waters.

Quentin Connealy, who farms along the Missouri River bottom near Tekamah, Nebraska, about 45 miles north of Omaha, said he and his family probably have a combined 600 acres of corn and soybeans underwater as of June 26.

"It's pretty calm and not rising any more right now. It looks like the watermark kind of topped out yesterday," Connealy said. "Friday (June 21) I was fielding calls, and we were talking about pulling well motors, but I didn't think it was going to get that bad at the time. That was the first we had really heard about it. Time was kind of short and we didn't end up pulling the motors because we didn't think it was going to get that bad."

Now at least one irrigation well motor is underwater, and the electrical panels are likely ruined as well. Connealy said he's now looking at when the waters might be able to recede to see if he can plant a cover crop in those fields.

Connealy's fields also flooded in 2019 when the Missouri River basin was slammed in March that year because of a storm called a "bomb cyclone" (https://www.dtnpf.com/…). That flood shut off a major portion of Interstate 29 in Iowa for months and caused both road bridges and levees to be rebuilt.

For now, Iowa officials have estimated that more than 1,900 homes were damaged by this week's floods, but there is no estimate for now of crop damage or livestock losses. Most of the river bottom land in Iowa was not flooded on Wednesday in a stretch from Onawa, Iowa, to Council Bluffs. Tributaries remained in their banks.

The Iowa Department of Transportation has shut off an area of Interstate 29 just north of the Omaha-Council Bluffs area largely as a precaution.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday said the last tributary to crest was the Little Sioux River, which enters the Missouri River channel south of Onawa. By Thursday, each of the tributaries to the Missouri River will have crested and were already declining around Sioux City, Iowa.

While flood waters on tributaries to the Missouri River had crested, communities and farms in central Iowa were facing flooding along other rivers flowing southeast such as the Des Moines River.

The Corps also cut back releases from the spillway at the Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota, dropping it from 24,000 cubic feet per second down to 20,000 cfs. The Corps could cut the releases down to 13,000 cfs as early as Friday.

Current forecasts suggest the Missouri River will crest in Omaha on Friday afternoon at 34.9 feet. If the crest holds, that will top the Missouri River's height during the peak of the 2019 flood, which was 30.04 feet. On Wednesday by about 10 a.m., the Missouri River at Omaha was at 30.6 feet and had increased more than 2 feet in the past 24 hours. The flood stage there is 27 feet.

The Corps expects moderate flooding on the Missouri River to St. Joseph, Missouri, until Monday.

The next concern is an area of widespread precipitation that could stretch from North Dakota down to Missouri from Friday through Sunday with rain estimates of 1-2 inches. That is expected to add as much as 2 feet to the river crest in areas from Kansas City, Missouri, and farther east on the river.

Also, in Minnesota, the damaged 114-year-old Rapidan Dam on the Blue Earth River now appears to have survived the flood, but a house on the edge of the river ended up collapsing into the water on Tuesday.


BNSF lost a bridge just north of Sioux City, Iowa, earlier in the week. The railroad stated Wednesday its crews "have made considerable progress with track repair in parts of Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota impacted by record flooding." BNSF expects another part of the rail line between Sioux City and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, will reopen service later this week. While some trains are being re-routed, BNSF has some temporary embargoes still in place to manage traffic flow.


Iowa has received a presidential disaster declaration, which opens communities to low-interest loans and aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Small rural businesses also can apply for low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration.

At USDA, farmers and livestock producers are eligible for the various disaster programs that could be available to producers. A USDA disaster declaration is more nuanced because a disaster such as a flood requires a 30% crop loss for that declaration to kick in.

Video of Quentin Connealy: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

See more DTN coverage:

"Flood Waters Lead to Loss of Cattle, Crops and Property Across Northwest Iowa," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"How Long Can Flooded Crops Survive?" https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"Flooding Across Upper Midwest," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"Wet Field Conditions Could Lead to Issues With Lost Nitrogen Fertilizer," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on social platform X @ChrisClaytonDTN

Chris Clayton